Ol Malo


A survey of 123 manyattas and 1,829 people, in December 2003, revealed that 51.2% of the target population had trachoma. 42.8% of children under the age of nine had been repeatedly re-infected by chlamydia trachomatis, and were suffering from chronic inflammation of the eyelid (active trachoma). This inflammation leads to scarring under the eyelid. 78.9% of adults over 30 were either blind, or in danger of becoming blind, as this scarring had caused the eyelashes to turn in and rub against the front of the eye (Lpapit Longonyek: eye lashes in the eyes). The World Health Organisation states that a prevalence of active trachoma in children under 9 years of over 20% and a prevalence of cicatricial trachoma in adults over 30 years of over 30% constitutes a serious public health problem.

The problems associated with trachoma are many, and dire; and the treatment is simple, cheap and produces immediate results. Such a small amount of money and effort for such large gain.

Sayen E Ndaa Programme

The Ol Malo Eye Project (www.olmaloeyeproject.com) has proved to be nothing less than a life-changing experience for hundreds of families living in the area surrounding Ol Malo. This project is not only bringing sight to many Samburu: it is a great motivator for all of us who work for and with the Ol Malo Trust.

The root of this infectious and preventable disease is poverty. Households affected by trachoma characteristically have young children living with unsafe water and inadequate sanitation. Transmission from eye to eye is mainly by fingers and flies. Trachoma has been virtually eliminated from developed countries through improvements in hygiene and sanitation, but transmission in this dry rural environment is inevitable, especially when livestock is kept close to living quarters

Trachoma-related blindness can be prevented either by antibiotic treatment or simple surgery for in-turned eyelashes. And vital to the long-term battle against blindness is community education in facial cleanliness and personal hygiene, along with environmental improvements and the provision of accessible clean water.

Methods to improve facial cleanliness:
The project encourages the use of the ‘Leaky Tin’ by the Samburu community: a hole is made in the bottom of a re-cycled plastic container, and an acacia thorn is used as the plug, making an instant shower. This method uses less than a cup of water to wash the hands and faces of an entire family.

The Trust has designed a specialised tool – an ‘ngisipet’- which will be distributed to all families within the area. This tool is made by the local spear-maker and beaded by the Samburu women, and is intended to encourage the Samburu to cover up their waste in order to prevent flies from spreading disease. They are beaded as per social status, in order to encourage the Morans and Elders to wear them with pride and thereby encourage the women and children to use them too. Following educational talks we have had many elders coming in to ask for the digger, which is a huge step forward in the prevention of the spread of trachoma and other hygiene-related medical problems. We are hoping the ngisipet will become a prototype for use by other organisations.

Since 2003 the aim of the Ol Malo Eye Project has been to treat and prevent the disease within an area populated by 10,000 people (the Muridjo District), and we have absolutely no doubt that we will achieve this aim. Ol Malo is one of only two organisations in Kenya consistently following each part of the World Health Organisation recommended procedure for the disease – surgery, antibiotics, facial cleanliness and environmental improvement (the S.A.F.E. programme). It has established strong links with Kenyan Ophthalmologists and promoted the training of local ophthalmic assistants. Our Clinical Director, Daniel Morris, is currently working with one of our UK Trustees, Annie Tempest (a well-known artist, see www.tottering.com) to produce a detailed and fully illustrated ‘Trachoma Eye Manual’, for use by local ophthalmic organisations.

Sayen E Ndaa Programme

For the last four years the Trust has received assistance with the Eye Project from the Kenyan branch of an international company – Standard Chartered Bank Kenya Ltd. The organisation has donated part of the proceeds raised through its annual ‘Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon’ to the running of the Trachoma Surgical Camps. Every year a team of Samburu Warriors, organised by Ol Malo, enter the Nairobi Marathon, and in 2005 they won the ‘Warrior’ category, running against several other Kenyan tribes.

Their involvement in the Marathon has proved to be a great motivator for the Samburu themselves: they see all that is being done by the people of Kenya to help them, and they relay this enthusiasm back into their community. The Eye Project has completed its third year in the Muridjo District, and has been such a success that we are already moving into a new area (Kipsing); while keeping the education-related parts of the project going in Muridjo. We now have a mobile operating tent and new four-wheel-drive vehicle which will help us to go further afield.

Sayen E Ndaa Programme

Our Trachoma Monitors (profiles written by the Samburu themselves)

Francis was born and raised from Samburu tribe, in Kipsing area. He is from Lesengei’s family. Joined his education in 1991 and completed in 2003. His late father worked as pastoralist in the area. Joined Ol Malo at 2005 as a Trachoma Monitor and has now gone far to removal of stitches during Trachoma operations. Aims to pursue his nursing cause as soon as possible. He loves his work and working with his people.

Lmusumaar was born and raised in Kipsing area as a Samburu. He is from Leasuyan family from Lngwes clan. Grew as a herdsman for his life time while a Moran, til his marriage. He has a wife with one baby girl. He joined Ol Malo in February 2007 as Trachoma Monitor. Till now he is a good and active member of Ol Malo Eye Project.


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